Intestinal innate immunity: recognition and response to enteric bacterial pathogens

Bacterial infections of the gastrointestinal tract are very common, particularly among children. These infections cause diarrheal outbreaks and millions of deaths worldwide. Bacteria are also a major problem in Canada, with BC having one of the highest rates of intestinal bacterial infection in the country. Bacteria are believed to trigger a variety of gastrointestinal diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease, a debilitating and chronic condition that affects one in every 1,000 Canadians. Despite the prevalence of bacterial pathogens (disease-causing organisms), little is known about how the immune system recognizes and combats intestinal bacterial infections. This information is important because the immune response to these bacteria determines who is susceptible to infection, as well as the severity of the resulting disease. Dr. Bruce Vallance is researching how bacteria cause intestinal disease and how the immune system identifies and fights these infections. Dr. Vallance is investigating whether genetic differences in hosts influence susceptibility to food and water-borne bacteria. He aims to identify immune responses and genetic factors that either protects against intestinal bacteria or causes susceptibility to infection. This research could help explain how bacteria cause intestinal disease and ultimately lead to new treatments to prevent both bacterial infections and bacterial-induced gastrointestinal diseases.